The NY Jets are set to embark on what should be an exciting, eventful offseason. From the hiring of new head coach Robert Saleh to rumors about the quarterback position, Jets fans have already seen their fair share of excitement.
And we’re only a month into the new year.
The Jets will likely be one of the most active teams this offseason when all is said and done. Expect the team to be a lot more aggressive in free agency this offseason after failing to do much of anything a year ago.
Not to mention, the 2021 NFL Draft revolves heavily around what they decide to do with the No. 2 overall pick. The Jets are a team to watch this offseason, for better or worse.
But aside from free agency and the draft, the Jets might also be active on the trade market. We’re set to take a look at four players who could be traded before the start of the 2021 season.
Some of the guys on this list might be more obvious. While others may fly a bit under-the-radar. Obviously, it goes without saying that the returns for each of these players will vary differently, as will the likelihood of the trade occurring.
But all four could realistically be dealt if the right situation arises.
With that, let’s take a look at four players the Jets could look to trade this offseason.
Next: 4. Nathan Shepherd
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
4. Nathan Shepherd, DT, NY Jets
Nathan Shepherd has managed to hang around with the Jets for the past three years despite never living up to his draft status. Originally a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Shepherd has carved out a role as a rotational lineman over the past few seasons.
At one point, the Jets expected Shepherd to fill a starting role on defense as he even opened his rookie season as a starter. However, in the years since he’s taken a backseat role.
The Fort Hays State product returned from suspension in 2019 and played some of the best football of his career. And while he didn’t produce at the same rate in 2020, he still notched a career-high 2.5 sacks despite playing under 30 percent of defensive snaps.
Shepherd will likely never be anything more than a depth interior rusher at this point. And with the Jets’ defensive line being pretty deep at the moment, he’s not even secured a roster spot next season.
For that reason, don’t be shocked if he’s traded sometime in the summer to a team looking to add additional interior depth. Of course, this wouldn’t exactly be a blockbuster deal.
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Shepherd would likely be traded in either an exchange of late-round draft selections or a future conditional pick. Don’t expect the net gain to be worth anything more than a seventh-rounder at best.
But Shepherd could be a victim of the numbers game this summer opening up the opportunity for him to contribute somewhere else. In recent years, we’ve seen players like Nate Hairston and Parry Nickerson traded just before the start of the season for minimal gains.
Don’t rule out the possibility of Shepherd being one of those players.
Next: 3. Blake Cashman
3. Blake Cashman, LB, NY Jets
In a similar fashion to Shepherd, linebacker Blake Cashman could fall victim to the numbers game this summer. The former 2019 fifth-round pick has battled injuries throughout his career, injuries that have taken away golden opportunities.
Just this past year, Cashman surprisingly went into Week 1 as the starter over veteran Avery Williamson. But just three plays into his season, he suffered a groin injury that would land him on injured reserve.
He wouldn’t play another defensive snap again all season.
Cashman is a relic of the Mike Maccagnan era, much like Shepherd, and his chance to be a long-term starter with the Jets has probably passed him by. But perhaps some team is willing to take a chance on his upside.
The former Minnesota star is an excellent athlete and still only 24-years-old. There might be a team or two out there that’s willing to give up a Shepherd-like package for him.
The Jets will return C.J. Mosley in 2021 and could look to bring back Neville Hewitt to start alongside him. In the new 4-3, the Jets will technically need a third starting linebacker, but considering the team will likely run nickel 80 percent of the time it’s not a major priority.
Cashman is quality depth and a solid special-teamer, but if some team still sees starting potential in him and wants to send the Jets a future late-round pick, they might just pull the trigger.
A trade is not exceedingly likely, but Cashman is one of those players who isn’t guaranteed a roster spot, but has the upside that other teams might covet. That’s why a trade is plausible.
Next: 2. Quinnen Williams
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
2. Quinnen Williams, DT, NY Jets
From a special-teamer to arguably the best player on the team. It goes without saying that the Jets have no desire to trade Quinnen Williams this offseason.
At just 23-years-old, Williams was a bonafide top-five interior defensive lineman last season ranking top-five in both pass-rush win rate and run-stop rate. After a somewhat underwhelming rookie campaign, Williams broke out in a big way in 2020.
Typically, there would be no feasible scenario where someone like Williams would even be available. But there is one scenario, as atypical as it is, where Williams could be sent packing.
And that scenario involves Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The situation surrounding Watson is as unprecedented as it gets. If Watson were to be traded, it would mark arguably the most valuable player ever traded in the history of the NFL.
Williams is a phenomenal young player who we likely haven’t even seen the best of. But when Watson is on the table, all bets are off. If Williams is the difference between landing Watson or seeing him play elsewhere, the Jets might not hesitate.
Realistically, Williams is the Jets’ greatest asset that’s not the No. 2 overall pick, and you could easily argue that Williams is more valuable. A package of a pair of first-rounders and Williams could be a feasible return for Watson.
And if that’s the case, if Houston insists on landing the former No. 3 overall pick in that deal, it’s a move you have to make.
There’s no other feasible scenario where you consider trading Williams. But if the opportunity presents itself this offseason, there’s a chance the Jets might just trade away arguably their best player.
Next: 1. Sam Darnold
1. Sam Darnold, QB, NY Jets
This one is far and away the most likely on this list.
The Jets have a decision to make on Sam Darnold‘s future this offseason. Either the team retains Darnold and turns to free agency and the draft to build around him, or they opt to move on and search for his replacement.
If the former happens, his job is obviously safe. But if the latter happens, Darnold will be playing for a new team in 2021.
At the moment, it’s impossible to predict what the Jets will do. Some rumors indicate that Darnold will return this season to be given one last chance while others seem to support the notion that his time in New York is all but over.
Either way, general manager Joe Douglas will certainly be exhausting all his options this offseason. If Darnold is traded, however, the Jets could receive a sizable haul.
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A late-first-round pick is not completely off the table, especially if a team like the New Orleans Saints views Darnold as the possible heir apparent to Drew Brees.
But in all likelihood, Darnold could fetch something along the lines of a second-round pick and an additional late-round selection. Of course, it also depends on where that second-round pick falls and how his market develops.
Regardless, even if it isn’t a sure thing, Darnold is the most likely Jets player to be traded this offseason. And unlike some of the others on this list, we won’t have to wait months to see if it happens.
If Darnold is to be traded, it will happen by late April at the very latest.